I still remember the first time I heard it. A senior vice president at the global PR agency where I worked called me and said, “Thanks to you and your analytics team, I look like a communications champion with our largest hospitality client.”

As it turned out, this senior VP and her team had been trying for months to convince one of our hospitality clients of the merits of a specific, creative strategy to improve brand awareness, increase competitive positioning and protect brand reputation. But the client was reluctant to accept the plan and the senior VP had no data to demonstrate why it was a good idea.

When she told me about this situation, I suggested that my analytics team conduct a competitive media analysis to see if any data could be found to support her recommendations. She agreed.

Our analysis did indeed uncover competitive insights that backed up her strategy. She presented our research to the hospitality client, who then decided to embrace the plan after all. Within six months, our client generated impressive results by making more strategic, informed and data-driven communications decisions.

And our senior VP became a champion to our largest hospitality client.

It was the first of many such calls I have received over the years, as more and more communications professionals have started to understand the value of qualitative media analytics.

More Strategic and Informed Decisions

Specifically, our client was a major hotel brand that wanted a deeper understanding of its competitive positioning in top-tier online news, business, trade and social media. We worked with our agency’s PR team and the client’s communications team to develop key metrics that measured message pull-through, brand awareness and preference, media penetration and brand awareness. We used those same metrics to analyze coverage generated by other hotels.

We also tossed aside vanity metrics, such as followers or fans, and focused on the digital transformation metrics that embraced the quality of coverage and conversations across media channels.

As a result, we identified opportunities and made recommendations for additional interactions with media, influencers, consumers and other brand stakeholders.

In other words, our client now had the groundwork for data-based planning to further improve its brand awareness and reputation in the crowded hospitality industry.

Digital Transformation

The discussion around digital transformation reminds me of early conversations about the Internet of Things – both concepts mean something slightly different to every company.  

According to Forbes, digital transformation “refers to the customer-driven strategic business transformation that requires cross-cutting organizational change as well as the implementation of digital technologies.”

Last year, Gartner weighed in on the term, noting how the use of digital technologies can change a business model and provide new revenue and value-producing opportunities.

Dell Technologies underlined that “every successful business will need to be digital at heart: powered by data over the next decade.”

Being powered by data is also significant in terms of analytics; digital transformation enhances media measurement by breaking down silos and providing the foundation for data-based planning.

Digital Transformation in Media Measurement

Digital transformation has eliminated the traditional rules of media channels, converging paid, earned, shared and owned media silos.

For example, messages in earned media are now also being used in paid advertising and/or marketing campaigns. When the content resonates, consumers share it on social media channels. In the not-too-distant future, many people won’t be able to make a distinction between paid, earned, shared or owned media.

In addition, digital transformation moves away from those previously mentioned vanity metrics and focuses instead on brand-centric metrics, such as the ones we developed for our hospitality client (e.g., message pull-through, brand awareness, brand reputation and brand preference). While a few firms have taken this approach in recent years, it is finally becoming the new normal for everyone.

That’s because the C-Suite doesn’t just want numbers provided by clip counts, fans or followers; senior leadership wants to know the impact of their brand’s communications efforts on the organization, stakeholders, consumers, wider audience and media channels.

Many senior leaders are also looking for analytics that help them interpret the words and phrases that people associate with their brand – words such as innovative, inspirational, integrity, consistency, thought leaders and market leaders; or expressions that portray satisfaction, confidence, loyalty and trust.

They also want to know if their company is recognized for corporate responsibility, sustainability, diversity and inclusion. And they need to know, as quickly as possible, if words are being used that indicate a pending crisis, so it can be mitigated.

But merely knowing which words people associate with your brand isn’t useful without context. For example, are people expressing confidence in your brand, or perhaps a lack of confidence? Why? Do they prefer your brand over others, and if so, for what reasons? Data analytics can provide this critical context.

Competitive intelligence is also crucial in this respect. Data can and should be mined to find out what messages, positioning and activities contributed to your competitors’ share of voice and why. Did a competitor hold or sponsor a popular event? Was there a backlash to one of their initiatives? Did they issue a company statement that unleashed a reaction?

Gathering knowledge about your competitors can help you identify their strategies and tactics, and uncover potential future opportunities for your company.


Digital transformation in analytics gives you the opportunity to harness the power of brand intelligence to understand the impact of your communications efforts on your company, stakeholders and other audience segments. You will also be armed with valuable information about your competitors.

Understanding your audiences’ reactions to your brand helps you protect your reputation and plan for the future. Understanding the data from the best brand-centric metrics helps you to 1) make data-driven communications and business decisions; 2) identify, avert or alleviate a crisis; and 3) protect and build corporate and brand reputation.

In this way, you too can become a communications champion.

Zignal Summit 2019

Want an even deeper dive into how to implement a meaningful and forward-thinking digital transformation strategy, align digital strategy with overall business growth goals and employ best practices for PR measurement?

You can find these answers and more at Zignal Summit 2019, where PR experts at the forefront of the field will discuss measurement and attribution, competitive analysis, brand awareness, corporate social responsibility and crisis communications.

Register here for Zignal Summit 2019, taking place April 25 in San Francisco. To see more details, including the agenda and a full list of speakers, please visit the event page.